The marching band from the small historically black Talladega College will perform at Donald Trump's inauguration ceremony today, and despite criticism, they're proud to join the ceremony.
But the road to Washington hasn't been easy for Talladega's Marching Tornadoes.
First, the band faced a major financial obstacle. The total price of sending the students to the inauguration was $75,000—an amount that the school did not have.
To raise the funds, the band set up a GoFundMe page and began to take in donations.
The funds merely trickled in, though, until Talladega President Billy C. Hawkins appeared on the Fox News television show "The O'Reilly Factor" and expressed the band's dilemma.
The trickle of donations became a torrent. In wake of the TV appearance, the band collected $333,000 via its donation page.
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But now the band and the college faced a new obstacle: criticism for their decision to perform at the inauguration.
Talladega alumni, artists, prominent black Americans, and representatives of other HBCUs have expressed disapproval.
Many of them say Trump opposes everything Talladega and similar HBCUs stand for, especially their record of support for civil rights.
During his appearance on the O'Reilly show, Hawkins addressed the criticism.
"Some alumni have come at me pretty hard," he said. "But this is about the students having an opportunity to participate in this national ceremony."
Donors who support the band's decision have argued that the performance is more about the inaugural ceremony itself—a peaceful transfer of power—and less about the individual assuming the presidency.
Despite the controversy, Hawkins and his students say they're excited and proud. Hawkins said in a recent news conference, "If you don't come to the table, you're not going to be able to eat. Talladega College is going to be at the table" (Phillips, New York Times, 1/13).
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